Why You Should Really Care About International SEO – Part 1

5 comments

Painfully for many, most of the world’s current economic growth is taking place in the Far East and the Indian subcontinent, with the US and Europe looking relatively stagnant. That doesn’t mean that all SEO requirements for these growing regions can be best served from within. Much of the growth comes from the demands of the growing middle classes in these regions, who seem to lust after western-style goods and luxuries. Many prestige brands are doing extremely well from exporting to the Chinese market, such as Jaguar-Land Rover, who saw sales to this region jump by 76% this year.

As SEOs, it can be difficult to know the best way to optimize our clients’ sites for these new and emerging markets. Is it best to use a country-specific, separate site or a subdomain of a current “global” site? Should we directly translate the current site from English to the language of the target country? Can we host everything on one server? What’s the difference between multilingual SEO and international SEO, and why does it matter? Is cultural difference importance and, if so, how can we deal with it? Are TLDs (Top Level Domains) important? Do we really need to bother – won’t everyone be able to speak English? (Clue: Ask the French which sites they’d choose from a list of search results).

How much does international SEO matter to Western companies? Let me suggest that if you can only provide SEO service to your home country’s market, your potential client list is likely to suffer in the future. You’ll be missing out on massive opportunities.

Here’s why. The population of Europe is 2-1/2 times that of the USA. Might your clients care about this market of around 750 million people? How about India – at over 1.2 billion, it’s four times the size of the US, and importantly, its population has growing disposable income. Then there’s China, having nearly 1.4 billion people, and rapidly learning the practices of consumerism.

Between Europe and these two countries, there are around 3.3 billion people, many with rapidly growing wealth and spending power. Helping clients market their wares to this vast market can certainly help ease some of the pain of near-stagnant home markets. But don’t think it’s all B2C – far from it. Many large Far Eastern companies have massive growth and spending power. I mentioned before how well the old, very British brand Jaguar-Land Rover is doing by selling to these markets. They just happen to be owned by Tata Motors of India.

So international SEO really does matter, especially if you’re serving, or looking to serve, clients with global entities or ambitions. This doesn’t mean they have to be global giant corporations. Even for many niche industries, their main market can be abroad. Where’s the biggest market for Scottish lobsters? The restaurants of Paris are where most of them end up. Top end hi-fi or branded trainers? That’ll most likely be China as your biggest potential market. Chinese officials expect China to become the world’s biggest consumer market as soon as 2015.

It’s never been more important to be able to offer a service that will work for all markets for our clients, whilst differentiating ourselves from the growing competition for local SEO’s in these growing markets. Next time, I’ll explain just how I recommend you go about achieving these goals.

About the Author

Paul McIntyre is the Founder and Managing Director at Search High, an integrated inbound marketing company, blossoming from many years successful bespoke SEO implementations for Blue Chip and high growth enterprises. Search High is based in the UK East Midlands.

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5 Comments

  1. Hey Paul, some interesting thoughts you got there and I liked how you backed them up with numbers! I'd like to give my two cents about the different forms of doing international SEO: I'm willing to bet that more and more companies with an international focus will end up with a global site with national subdomains or folders within the next few years. Why? Because SEO is growing more and more complex every year: search results are now localized, personalized, socialized, and even estimated (Google serves way more less than 100% exact matches to your query). The result will be that trying to build a new site from scratch will become harder every year and thus companies are forced to stick to a global site in order to get a return on investment quick enough and/or in order to avoid heavy losses. What are your thoughts on this? Regards, Dennis Miedema

  2. Hi Dennis, Thank you for your comments. That's a very interesting point of view. You're right, it's a lot more effort, and thus cost, to get multiple sites in many countries all performing well, especially without creating duplicate content and incurring the penalties that go with that. There are clear benefits to having sites and physical operations that can support both customers and new customer acquisition through local blogs, social media etc and I believe it's our duty as good SEO's to highlight the benefits of these, so that clients can weigh up the cost benefit of sites on a country by county benefit. In the long run, all we can do is provide the pros and cons and let them make the decisions. Many global organisations have already implemented the model you mention, with countries being subdomains of global (normally,com) sites, and you have to wonder how much they considered the "think global, act local" mantra.

  3. Oh yeah of course. Supply and demand definitely have something to do with it. For example: Holland (where I'm originally from) has 17 million inhabitants and is thus quite small, resulting in a small set of keywords to operate with, but if competition levels are fairly constant then you end up with a very competitive market with low demand and high supply. That mantra is best changed into "same walk, different talk" by the way haha

  4. Hi Paul, Thank you for the information. I have a question, but at the same scenario is also valid for the turkey?

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